Dec 212013

As wonderful as the Christmas season could be, as portrayed by many heart-warming Christmas movies and the powerful celebration of the birth of baby Jesus to bring peace and joy to the world, for many it’s also the time for family dynamics that can stir up a wide range of emotions with family drama, strained relationships, and/or painful loneliness. (confession: yes, I have  my share of ‘em too)

And the timing is just right to get a note from my friend Liz Swanson launching a new blog: In-Law Savvy – bookmark it at - where she actively share her own reflections and insights from the 1,000+ interviews with experts about healthy relationships for the context of growing with the quirkiness of people closest to us and unplanned things that life sometimes brings our way.


And the first blog posts show good signs of very interesting reading up ahead in the near year. Look at these salient sound bites of self-reflection:

“… that means I speak as I think instead of thinking before I speak. Being both a reactor and a verbal processor can be a lethal combination.” ~ from I need to vent

“… But my grandmother drove her nuts and apparently my mom was unaware of the fact that we all knew it.” ~ from A fresh perspective on in-laws and control

“… We were so determined to be at our own family celebrations that we actually put our lives in danger to make it work. We’ve learned a lot since then. I know the holidays can be stressful.” ~ from In-Law Stress During the Holidays with 7 Tips for Managing In-Law Stress During the Holiday

“… Looking for the cracks in others produces fertile ground for resentment to grow. Resentment is a private emotion that has little impact on the person it’s directed towards but a very destructive impact on the one who holds it.

For a whole different side of life, stop by Eric Swanson’s blog too (her husband), over at He’s notorious for food photos and drawing grids & quadrants.

Sep 062012

The power of perception. Your perception shapes your reality. More than that, really, for most people. Your perception becomes your reality; your perception IS your reality. Me too. My perception is my reality. And here’s how I see and perceive myself, who I think I am.

I’m really just an ordinary average guy.

I won’t use the word normal, I know I’m not that. I was today described as “an interesting guy” by an old friend. I can live with that. I like to keep myself available and accessible to ordinary people. (I don’t need to be protecting my time or be shrewdly strategic to maximize my effectiveness and impact.) My phone number is here for you to call 949-243-7260 and when you call I will answer. If I’m not able to answer right away, I’ll call you back, and we’ll chat about whatever.

Labor Day weekend marked the end of summer, and here’s how ordinary it was. We made it mostly family time, mostly unplanned, it unfolded as ideas spontaneously surfaced.

Saturday. Took a lunch road trip to downtown Orange for the Internatioanal Street Fair. I wound up having a $5 gyro. My wife and 15yo son were with me. 2 hours or so of sauntering. Did a load of laundry. Afternoon nap. Went to Saturday night church worship at Saddleback Rancho Capistrano, and the bonus was a pizza dinner afterward. Met a retired doctor named Bill, and got him super-quickly signed up on Twitter on his cell phone — you can too, just send a text to 40404 with a message: follow rickwarren

Sunday. Breakfasted at Bagels & Brew, father & son style. Ran errand with son for a church tech team meeting. Light grocery shopping. Washed the car (Prius c) by hand, father & son teamwork. Went to hardware store twice to get shelving brackets, and then the screws. Cheeseburger macaroni mix for a leftover lunch. Built 2 wall shelves in my son’s bedroom. Watched documentary about The Gates (a controversial 2-week outdoor art installation in New York City’s Central Park back in February 2005) on
beach foam
Monday. Road trip to Laguna Beach with family for 3 hours, which included breakfasting at C’est La Vie overlooking the beach, walked along the beach, stopped by a grocery store and picked up 1 Hatch green chile for 27 cents. Sloppy joe sandwich and leftovers for lunch. Afternoon nap. Chili for dinner with a movie, the 3rd sequel of that Back to the Future franchise. Bummed I forgot to make cornbread. Bedtime.

See, pretty ordinary, yes? What did you do for this last weekend to end out the summer of 2012?

May 192012

Here in Rockville Maryland for a quick weekend visit to be with family, one year after my Dad’s death. Everyone seems to have made whatever adjustments to this new chapter of life. I used this new technology I just found this morning called Spreaker to capture a few thoughts — listen. I’m anticipating that we’re not doing a formal program to memorialize this event; what’s important is being together and sharing life.

Bob Chuang

Click back in time and watch the 1-hour webcast about caregiving for my ailing Dad, as my brother and mother gave him the best care over his last 2.5 years. And here’s the short obit about his life. I also have a private memorial page for my Dad to which you’re welcomed to request access to view.

Nov 062011

Good to see my friend Jefferson Lee and his family in this OC Family Feature Story (November 2011), “Special Love: Adopting a special-needs child brings unique rewards to the entire family” by Susan Serrano —

Like any family with a new addition, the Lee household is a study in controlled chaos. However, instead of diaper changes and late-night feedings, this Irvine family is bustling with the adventures of Braeden, an inquisitive 5-year-old with a passion for all things outdoors. He joined his family this summer via adoption from South Korea.

Jeff and Rachel Lee had long discussed adding to their family, which includes two biological daughters [...].

Adoption appealed to Rachel, a psychologist; however, Jeff was uncertain. A mission trip to Africa – where he assisted a boy who needed lifesaving heart surgery – changed everything

“He realized he could easily fall in love with a child he was not biologically related to. That was in 2006, the same year Braeden was born,” Rachel Lee recalled. “Last year, we determined that, with our two daughters getting older, we had reached a ‘now-or-never’ point; it was time to move forward and adopt, or to decide not to add to our family.”

The Lees felt an older child would fit well with their active crew. Since both Jeff and Rachel were born in Korea, adopting a child from their native country was also a logical choice, Rachel says. Their research led them to Braeden, who had a heart condition and lived in a Korean orphanage.

The ever-changing landscape of international adoption has one constant feature: a continually increasing need for adoptive families for older children and children with special needs, says Kimberly Alls, coordinator of the Waiting Child Program for the Lee’s adoption agency.

Alls advises those considering opening their hearts and homes to a child with special needs to carefully consider their motivation for adopting, asking questions that include …

Read the full article in OC Family.

And the sidebar has these very valuable tips of “Adoption Etiquette: What not to say to adoptive parents” (by Judy M. Miller)
Continue reading »

May 242011

This past week has been a hard time for my family (of origin) with the passing of my Dad. We’re grateful for the kindness of prayer, comfort, and condolences already expressed and received during the past week. This time has been sad and hard, yet healing and bonding, even transformative for me. And I personally thank you, my online friends and acquaintances, for being a part of my life over the past 12 years.

Tomorrow evening, Wed 5/25, 8:00pm Eastern, my brother Deef and I hosted an online event to share about Dad’s life and legacy, as well as offer a glimpse into caregiving for my Dad during the past 2.5 years. Please join our livestream at You can watch the recorded video.

Bob Chuang莊 志 寶
In loving memory of Bob Chih-Pao Chuang

Bob Chih-Pao Chuang, 84, passed peacefully on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011, in Rockville, Maryland, after two and a half years of declining health following a stroke. He is survived by his wife Wei, three sons, Difei, Dicheng, and Difan, and one grandson Jeremiah. He was born in Fujian, China, and graduated in economics from Chengchi University.

In 1949, he moved to Taiwan, where he was an accomplished math teacher, journalist, and entrepreneur. Since coming to the United States in 1972, he owned and operated small businesses in Bethesda, Maryland, and Winchester, Virginia.

He was exemplary in demonstrating love for his family through diligent work, an honorable champion of truth and goodness, and esteemed genuine friendships with loyalty and generosity. A private memorial service was held to honor his life and legacy.

On Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, a private Memorial Service was held at their home in Rockville, Maryland, attended by close friends of the family.

Bob Chih-Pao Chuang Memorial Photos

Oct 062009

Small talk is not my forte’. I can talk about weather or sports for maybe 30 seconds tops. Those are the conventionally safe topics. Work usually comes up early in the conversation, as in “what do you do?” People too quickly associate one’s identity with their work / profession / career.

There are some topics not good for small talk: “… it is not safe to discuss subjects that society deems controversial such as religion or politics.” Yet, politics get lots of air time, even though it’s controversial. Lots of mainstream media and social media time at that.

One British etiquette website describes what’s safe and not safe for small talk conversations:

Which topics are safe for small talk? …

- The weather, eg “It’s a lovely day today, isn’t it?”
- Sport, eg “Have you been watching Wimbledon?”
- Hobbies, eg “What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?”
- Work, eg “What sort of work do you do?”

… Which topics are best avoided for small talk? …

- Money, eg “How much do you earn?”
- Politics, eg “Who did you vote for at the last election?”
- Religion, eg “Do you believe in God?”


What about philosophy and religion? Now these two topics make for much more INTERESTING conversations!

Dec 262008

It’s a holiday season. That means lots of time for movies. On one channel, they had a whole hour of trailers from movies about Christmas. I think I read once that more movies made about this holiday than any other.

This week has afforded me more time with family, and to think about family. I don’t blog about my family, as all of them have privacy concerns, or I think they assumingly do.

Family is family, and many do feel enough of a connection to made an annual pilgrimage home to visit, even though few families describe themselves as close. When the family gathers, there may be fond memories of rituals that are cherished as family traditions.

There are other family traditions too. The habits and patterns each of us revert to. Some love to play together; some cook and eat; some talk feelings and relate that way; some tell stories; some share their joys and fears; some listen to each other; some create drama; some debate for fun, some for fight; some graciously help each other grow and mature; some stay cordial and polite; some go shopping; some vacation together with each person doing their own thing.

I’m probably not alone in saying that I behave differently being around family than I am hanging out with a friend. (sometimes) I wish I could be as free being with family as I could be with friends. (A few people might have the reverse, feeling more free at home with family than with others.)

Somehow I’ve psyched myself out, thinking that if I behave the same with my family in the way I would with a good friend, my family might be offended, or not accept me and get rejected, or not get my sense of humor, or get uncomfortable, or. whatever… and it’s not like I run with a questionable crowd.

Let’s see what happens if I change my words and behaviors. Got a couple of days on this round. Let’s see what happens. I may report back, especially if I can get any of them to blog or twitter ;)